COVID-19 vaccination cards have become more ubiquitous as the U.S. races to vaccinate the population against the virus.
Nearly 124 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 76 million or 23% of the population is now fully inoculated, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
The small paper card showing proof of vaccination is now a vital piece of documentation for a post-pandemic world. But many have questions on what happens if the card is lost, damaged or stolen. Should it be carried at all times? Is there proof of vaccination anywhere else beyond the physical card?
FILE - A COVID-19 vaccination record card issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Here are some answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccine cards:
Is the COVID-19 vaccine card the only proof of my vaccination?
There should be an electronic record of one’s COVID-19 vaccination saved with the health care organization, clinic, pharmacy or county health department that provided the shot.
The U.S. does not maintain a central vaccination record database. Some states do maintain a system of immunizations for residents. The CDC recommends contacting the state’s health department for those in search of official copies of vaccination records.
Because there is no central vaccination database, the CDC’s vaccine card remains an important document for personal records. The agency advises taking a picture of the card on both sides.
What should I do if I lose my COVID-19 vaccine card?
The CDC says to keep one’s COVID-19 vaccine card and consider taking a picture of it after receiving the second shot as a backup copy. But for those who may have lost it and did not snap a selfie with it, there are options to get a replacement card.
Individuals can contact the vaccination provider site where they received their shot and have them look up information and create a new card. If the site is no longer open, the CDC says the state health department may be able to find out how to get a new card.
Vaccination providers are required to report COVID-19 vaccinations to their state’s immunization information system (IIS) and related systems, according to the agency. Here’s a list of each state’s IIS information.
Should I laminate my COVID-19 vaccine card?
The 3-by-4 inch vaccine cards are small, but don’t necessarily fit into standard size credit card pockets in most wallets. This has left many to worry about where to safely store it and whether they should cover it in a thin layer of protective plastic in case they need to show proof at an event or while traveling.
Office supply stores like Office Depot and Staples have offered to laminate cards for free, though some have said it might not be a good idea in case the need arises for a booster shot down the line.
"Many people are laminating, but there’s also the possibility that there will be the need for booster shots," New York City Councilman and Health Department Committee chair Mark Levine told Slate. "And so, some people have recommended you hold off on laminating, in case you have to write a third date on there"
There are other options popping up online too, including vaccine cardholders and sleeves.
If a person does choose to laminate their card, they should make sure all the information is correct — such as the individual’s name, birth date, which vaccine was given, the date of vaccination and location.
Should I carry my COVID-19 vaccine card or store it somewhere safe?
Other than bringing it to a second vaccination appointment, experts say people do not need to carry the CDC COVID-19 vaccine card day-to-day.
People who are planning to travel internationally should confirm whether the card is needed as proof of vaccination for each step of the itinerary, Pilz said.
"If you absolutely must bring your card while traveling, make sure to keep it on you or store it in carry-on luggage only," he added.
The idea of "vaccine passports," or documents that show you were vaccinated against COVID-19, have been a topic of debate this year as various countries look to reopen safely. Such passports or certificates are still being developed, and how and whether they’ll be used could vary widely around the world.
In the U.S., federal officials have said there are no plans to make them broadly mandatory. In some states, Republican governors have issued orders barring businesses or state agencies from asking people to show proof of vaccination.
What information is on my COVID-19 vaccine card?
The vaccine card includes personal information like the patient’s full name and birthday, as well as information about which shot was given and the lot number of the vaccine.
"When reporting for a vaccine dose, a photo ID will be required to confirm your identity," pharmacy manager Jeff Pilz with the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center writes in a blog post. "However, there are always bad actors looking to cause mischief, so it’s best to make sure your card is safe and secure to prevent theft or loss."
Should I share my COVID-19 vaccine card on social media?
Given some of the personal information that is written on the card, the Better Business Bureau has warned people to avoid sharing their COVID-19 vaccination cards on social media.
"Unfortunately, your card has your full name and birthday on it, as well as information about where you got your vaccine," the organization said in a statement. "If your social media privacy settings aren’t set high, you may be giving valuable information away for anyone to use."
Those who are excited to share their newly inoculated status with friends can still take a picture at the vaccine site or a selfie with a sticker or pin that may be given out at the appointment. The BBB also suggests adding a COVID-19 vaccine-theme frame around a profile picture on Facebook.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.